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“The whole country is paying the price” – JS

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“The whole country is paying the price” – The Denver Post

By DAVID KLEPPER and KRUTIKA PATHI (Associated Press)

NEW DELHI (AP) — Bollywood stars rarely get involved in politics, so videos of two celebrities criticizing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi — and endorsing his main opposition party, the Congress Party — were bound to go viral.

But the clips of A-list actors Aamir Khan and Ranveer Singh were fake AI-generated videos that were yet another example of the false or misleading claims floating around online aimed at The Indian elections. Both actors filed a complaint with the police, but such actions do little to stem the flow of such disinformation.

Claims recently circulating online in India contained incorrect details to voteclaimed without evidence that the election would be rigged and was called out violence against Indian Muslims.

Researchers tracking disinformation and hate speech in India say tech companies’ poor enforcement of their own policies has created perfect conditions for harmful content that could distort public opinion, fuel violence and leave the country. millions of voters are wondering what to believe.

“A non-demanding user or a casual user has no idea whether it is someone, an individual sharing his or her thoughts on the other end, or is it a bot?” Rekha Singh, a 49-year-old voter, told The Associated Press. Singh said she worries that social media algorithms are distorting voters’ view of reality. “So you’re biased without even realizing it,” she said.

In a year full of major elections, the many voices in India it’s noticable. The the most populous country in the world features dozens languages, the largest number of WhatsApp users and the largest number of YouTube subscribers. Nearly 1 billion voters are eligible to cast their ballots during the elections continues until June.

Tech companies like Google and Meta, which owns Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, say they are working to combat misleading or hateful content while helping voters find trustworthy sources. But researchers who have long tracked disinformation in India say their promises ring hollow after years of failed enforcement and “cookie-cutter” approaches that fail to take into account India’s linguistic, religious, geographical and cultural diversity.

Given India’s size and its importance to social media companies, you would expect a greater focus, say disinformation researchers focused on India.

“The platforms make money from this. They benefit from it, and the entire country pays the price,” says Ritumbra Manuvie, professor of law at the University of Groningen. Manuvie is a leader of The London Story, an Indian diaspora group that organized a protest outside Meta’s London offices last month.

Research by the group and another organization, India Civil Watch International, found that Meta allowed political ads and posts that contained anti-Muslim hate speech. Hindu nationalist narrativesmisogynistic messages about female candidates and advertisements encouraging violence against political opponents.

The ads were viewed more than 65 million times over 90 days earlier this year. Together they cost more than 1 million dollars.

Meta defends its work in the field of global elections and disputed the findings of the study on India, noting that the country expanded its work with independent fact-checking organizations prior to the election, and has employees around the world ready to act if its platforms are misused to spread disinformation. Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, said of India’s election: “It’s a huge, huge test for us.”

“We have months and months and months of preparation in India,” he told The Associated Press during a recent interview. “We have teams that work around the clock. We have fact checkers in multiple languages ​​in India. We have a 24-hour escalation system.”

YouTube is another problematic disinformation site in India, experts say. To test how well that video-sharing platform did at enforcing its own rules, researchers from the nonprofit Global Witness and Access Now created 48 fake ads in English, Hindi and Telugu with false voting information or calls for violence. One claimed that India had raised the voting age to 21, although it is still 18, while another said women could vote by text message, although that is not possible. A third called for the use of violence at polling stations.

When Global Witness submitted the ads to YouTube for approval, the response was disappointing, says Henry Peck, a researcher at Global Witness.

“YouTube took no action on any of them,” Peck said, and instead approved the ads for publication.

Google, YouTube’s owner, criticized the investigation, noting that it has multiple procedures in place to detect ads that violate its rules. Global Witness removed the ads before they could be spotted and blocked, the company said.

“Our policies explicitly prohibit ads that make demonstrably false claims that could undermine participation in or confidence in elections, which we enforce in several Indian languages,” Google said in a statement. The company also noted its partnerships with fact-checking groups.

AI is the newest threat this year, as advances in programs make it easier than ever to create lifelike images, video or audio. AI deepfakes are popping up in elections around the world from Moldova to Bangladesh.

Senthil Nayagam, founder of an AI startup called Muonium AI, believes there is a growing demand for deepfakes, especially from politicians. In the run-up to the elections, he had several questions about making political videos using AI. “There is undoubtedly a market for it,” he says.

Some of the fakes Nayagam produces feature dead politicians and are not intended to be taken seriously, but other deepfakes circulating online could potentially fool voters. It’s a danger Modes himself has emphasized.

“We need to educate people about artificial intelligence and deepfakes, how it works and what it can do,” Modi said.

India’s Ministry of Information and Technology has ordered social media companies to remove misinformation, especially deepfakes. But experts say a lack of clear regulation or legislation focused on AI and deepfakes makes it harder to undermine it, leaving it up to voters to decide what is true and what is fiction.

For 18-year-old Ankita Jasra, a first-time voter, these uncertainties can make it difficult to know what to believe.

“If I don’t know that what is being said is true, I don’t think I can trust the people who govern my country,” she said.

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AP journalists Matt O’Brien in Providence, Rhode Island, and Rishi Lekhi in New Delhi contributed to this report.